Sevilla: A fascinating club but for all the wrong reasons

David Cartlidge 22:21 29/01/2015
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • The real acid test for a talented team like Sevilla will be to see how they react to a negative environment.

    Fifth in the La Liga table with a game in hand, a tie in the last 32 round of the Europa League, where they are current reigning champions, and one of the longest serving coaches in La Liga at the moment.

    Sevilla should, on the face of things, be a club bristling with content right now. That’s far from the reality of the situation though.

    – Batistuta: Argentina legend ready to take the plunge into management
    – Real Madrid forge ahead with Abu Dhabi Bernabeu renaming
    – #360View: Riquelme, the romantic who never fit the established mould
    #360win: WWE LIVE Abu Dhabi tickets and Superstars meet & greet

    The Andalucian outfit however has had a week to forget. First was a lacklustre performance against Espanyol in the Copa del Rey quarter final. Then, on Sunday evening against Valencia, they were swept aside in fairly comfortable fashion by their new found rivals. Back-to-back defeats, just like the last time they tasted loss, going back as far as November. Then, a 5-1 thumping by Barcelona was followed by a miserable 2-0 defeat by Feyenoord in the Europa League.

    Captain Ivan Rakitic of Sevilla (C) celebrates with team mates after victory during the UEFA Europa League Final against Benfica.

    Those games sparked a shut down from Sevilla, where they have won by doing the absolute least and drawn by the skin of their teeth. Even their must-win final Europa League group game against Rijeka, at home, was done with sheer doggedness that has become synonymous with Unai Emery’s side. A “grey” game Marca called it the next day. This past week however, it caught up with them. Despite the winning run encountered after those November games, few have been convinced by Emery’s men.

    Emery has turned Sevilla into a rigid outfit, they play the percentages and are kept on a tight leash by the coach. Few chances are given away, and attacks are only made with expert precision. The departure of Ivan Rakitic to Barcelona has seen Sevilla become more direct, and less dependent on build-up play through the middle. It’s less easy on the eye, and more direct, but Emery would argue, it’s as functional.

    A double pivot, often comprised of Grzegorz Krychowiak and Stephane M’Bia, protects a defence that is startlingly familiar with each other. The return of Nico Pareja to Spain has been key in Emery’s reign, with the Argentine defender offering a towering presence. Daniel Carrico too, has been solid since joining from Southampton, with the Portuguese operating both alongside Pareja and in a defensive midfield holding role on occasions. Carlos Bacca meanwhile heads the attack, offering athletic attributes but also a devastating touch in front of goal. Krychowiak particularly, has been outstanding.

    It’s a well rounded team, the squad is deep, and for the most part, it has been winning games. The question is though, is winning enough? Should we expect more from this Sevilla team given their advantage over many of the other teams in La Liga? The stability they have with their coach and backroom, the clearly talented squad. The concern is the same questions were asked about Emery when with Valencia. At times too, it seems like the Basque coach hasn’t really developed his managerial acumen. His substitutions in terms of timing and function are remarkably similar, then there is the style of play. High energy and loose against the bigger sides, often miscalculated. Then against the smaller sides a lack of drive, and a reliance of the sheer quality advantage over the opponent to shine through. Sevilla are a lot better and a lot more fortunate in terms of resources than the Rayo Vallecano’s, Almeria’s, Celta Vigo’s and co, but they rarely show it to a degree these advantages are evident.

    Coaches such as Paco Jemez seemingly play without limits, extracting potential and end product out of players they themselves didn’t know was there. Emery meanwhile is more pragmatic in his methods, preferring to use his players and their skill sets in a chess like manner. There is more focus on the opponent, calculating their moves, thus bringing restriction over his own pieces. If anything has changed from his Valencia days, it’s that he’s actually become even more meticulous.

    It maybe explains the lack of minutes for Gerard Deulofeu at Sevilla. The winger, on loan from Barcelona, is the antithesis of Emery’s methods. He’s unpredictable, tactically incognito and personality wise more individualistic than team orientated. Deulofeu’s usage has been puzzling, in an instance where he can play a game, contribute a brace of assists, even score, and then not play for five games straight. He’s then handed 10 minutes at the end of a drab game with no tempo, to impress. He rarely doesn’t in the circumstances given his player type. Deulofeu needs intensity to thrive, and game in which he work out the opponent before capitalising on his conclusion. The loan has thus far been underwhelming, unfortunate given the player remains such an exciting prospect.

    What next for Sevilla? Well, it could all come undone soon, then, it will be interesting to see how the team reacts to a negative environment. The Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán is already becoming an indecisive place, tired of seeing 1-0 wins flattering their team. The Celta Vigo game saw players become frustrated by the pragmatism from their coach too. This all, despite Emery being on the cusp of equalling Juande Ramos’ 22 games unbeaten at the Pizjuain.

    While the fans aren’t foaming out the mouths with discontent, there is genuine concern. A notion that a defeat might be around the corner that could reduce both confidence and continuity that has been built up. A Europa League tie against Borussia Monchengladbach, one of the most exciting teams in the Bundesliga, will be an engrossing game not only through entertainment – despite probably Emery’s best attempt to kill that – but also what level the current holders are capable of. The journalists from the local press are privately fearing that game, and it’s with just cause. First up however is Espanyol, as Sevilla look to turn things around in search of one their limited chances of a trophy. The cup games, could essentially KO their season, while that resurgence in Valencia is filtering it’s way down to the south of Spain.

    Sevilla are fascinating to watch, but it is for all the wrong reasons.